“In the beginning, God . . .”—Genesis 1:1 (ESV)
I love fairy tales! One thing that makes fairy tales stand apart to me is just how well they set the stage for the story you’re about to immerse yourself in. How do they do this? With four simple words: “Once upon a time . . .”
The greatest and most important book ever written begins in a very similar fashion, except that what follows isn’t a fairy tale, it’s historical truth. In Genesis 1:1, it opens with these four simple words: “In the beginning, God . . .” It sounds so uneventful; and yet, behind these words we find the ultimate answers to many of the most pertinent questions of philosophy, science, and humanity.
The beginning here refers to the period in which the material, visible, and temporal world came into being. It was the beginning of time, of the linear, finite world. There is a lot of debate—and I mean A LOT—about the exact nature of what “In the beginning” (bə·rê·šîṯ) is referring to. Many scholars believe these words don’t just refer to a point in time but a period of time.
Considering the way this word is used in other passages (Job 8:7; Jeremiah 28:1), as well as the historical and cultural context, John H. Walton wrote that the Bible can be seen here as presenting the creation of the universe “as an initial, distinct period of time that served as a prelude to human history.”
This is also supported by the literary manner in which Genesis typically introduces sections with summary statements. Thus, the traditional understanding of “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” is that it’s introducing and acting as a summary statement regarding the literal six-day period of creation.
There is another major and powerful thing to gather from these four words: “In the beginning, GOD . . .” You see, God existed before the creation of the universe. He existed before the beginning of time. He is the beginning and the end. He holds everything together and is in everything. He is preeminent and preexistent. And for us, in the same way as the universe, He is our beginning.
In the same way that God is the beginning of everything, He is the beginning of our everything. Life truly begins the moment we encounter Him as Paul did in Acts 9. Our world explodes to life the moment we surrender our lives to the Almighty Creator. And from that moment, He begins a “good” (just like we see all throughout Genesis 1) work in us that He carries out to completion until the day of Christ Jesus!
DIG: What do these four words say to you? What do they tell you about God? How have you always interpreted Genesis 1:1?
DISCOVER: Do you remember the moment it all began for you? The moment you received Jesus?
DO: Write down your beginning story. Write your testimony and recall the moment the Lord saved you and began His good work in you.